Tai Chi Chuan and the Key to Happiness
We all want happiness. I ran into an interesting statement which I will paraphrase:
Easy Choices, Hard Life;
Hard Choices, Easy Life.
I have been studying something else besides tai chi and that something else is a language which does not use the English alphabet, Arabic. It has been a challenge to learn new letters, new sounds in some cases, totally new looking words - just about NO correlation to English. This is not my best skill set so to say this is a challenge is an understatement.
And yet my favorite 1.5 hours each week is Arabic class. Small, nice interested group of students, and a wonderful teacher. Some of the classes I just love and they feel easy. Other classes, I sort of dread because they threaten to push into my deficiencies. I struggle.
Yet I leave the class buzzed! It is always fun. The teacher will review and review and break things down more and more if needed. I find the material and the process fascinating. New phrases, new grammar, new rules of pronunciation and so forth. It is much more work than I had anticipated or desired. It is also much more fun.
I have often wanted to quit tai chi but have been pulled back time and time again. Arabic may be yet another skill to add to that list.
Happiness? It seems to me that both have something in common and that is what makes them so joyful in the end. It has to do with being absorbed by what you are doing. To really give this thing (movement, position, letter, word, grammatical nuance) your full attention. It is simply that. Total focus. The more the better.
I am beginning to think that focus and attention – for whatever reason – is the key to happiness.
Nothing else will do it. Focus is a process; it is not a result or a success story within itself. Just take a look at what you think brings you happiness. Do you not focus on it, attend to it? Would it be the same if you didn’t focus on it? Are those items that come effortlessly more satisfying than those that you need to work on, focus on?
I notice one obstacle to tai chi in general and that is the notion that by just doing it, all will be well, that benefits will come your way. Most of us go on automatic pilot and sort of don’t exist in much of our practice – and it doesn’t improve. It has to mean enough to you that you want as much of your attention to be on it as you can. It is more than just brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
When I say this, I am not implying maniacal self-critical correction mode. That doesn’t help either. I was prone to this at one point and I realized I could no longer practice where the focus was on fixing fixing fixing. I was one big act of masochism. No, what I am talking about is paying attention. There may be some fixing. But it is also just seeing what is there as you do it.
The more you attend, the better it will feel. But regardless of that, the more you attend, the more you will feel happy. And this applies to everything. In my language class, I don’t have a choice. If I didn’t pay attention, it would be utterly pointless. I’d quit in a flash.
Hard choices always require great attention and effort. And it helps if these are truly choices!
Even if you are doing something you don’t want to do, I believe that if you do it with resistance, it becomes a chore and not very satisfying. But if you simply put all of your attention on it, the time will be something you enjoy. Attention is a choice you can make.
All the easier when you WANT to attend to the activity you are involved in.
So I hope that tai chi has that kind of interest for you. You don’t even have to be good at it to create some happiness. You just need to show up and pay attention. Want to pay attention.
Find that thing that you want to focus on, even if it isn’t tai chi, and you will have a life of happy moments.
Results are nice, but focus is a thrill!